Pressure is too great: More politicians are making overload public

Bruno Hönel, Michael Roth and Nyke Slawik have temporarily withdrawn from their duties as MPs. All three cite mental stress as the reason.
Montage: Dominik Schmitt; picture alliance/photothek, Thomas Koehler, Thomas Imo; Flashpic, Jens Krick

More and more members of state parliaments or the Bundestag are openly dealing with a mental illness. Sick leave seems to be increasing.

Nyke Slawik of the Greens recently signed off from everyday parliamentary work for an indefinite period. Although she continues to receive her diet, she waives attendance fees.

We spoke to a longtime political adviser about the consequences for politicians’ CVs and are looking for reasons why MPs are overburdened.

“The first week of meetings after the summer break started today. Without me,” she writes member of parliament Nyke Slawik (Green). She doesn’t have the strength to go on like she has in the last few months. In February – five months after the election – her party colleague Bruno Hönel wrote on his Instagram account: “I will not take part in the election of the Federal President and otherwise it will remain quiet in the next few weeks (…).” The two newcomers in the Parliament took sick leave in the first year of the legislature.

The 26-year-old Hönel gave the multiple burden of his job, looking for an apartment and thesis as a reason for his “depressive episode”, even with the 28-year-old Slawik moving and work came together. In addition, she is saddened by Malte’s death. The man was attacked and critically injured at Christopher Street Day in Münster when he rushed to help two women.

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In the meantime, the Lübeck Green has returned to everyday parliamentary life after two weeks, and his colleague from Leverkusen is still on sick leave. And they’re not the only ones who have had it too much. The SPD foreign expert Michael Roth only returned in July from a break of several weeks. He also gave “mental exhaustion” as the reason. Sahra Wagenknecht from the left had a burnout.

The deputies did not have to present a yellow slip for the employer. That applies to all parliamentarians in Germany. Your employment relationship is not comparable to that of a normal employee. Therefore, the people’s representatives do not have to report to the Bundestag administration or the President of the Parliament that they are ill. Those who do not appear at the meeting will have their attendance fee reduced: in the event of unexcused absence by 200 euros, and those who present a medical certificate will only have 20 euros deducted from the monthly allowance of 10,083 euros.

Nobody knows how often MPs are absent

In 2021, every employee in Germany was absent for an average of 11.2 days due to illness. Before the corona pandemic, the average was 10.9 days absent. A similar list of how often the 736 people’s representatives in the Bundestag were missing is not available when asked by the Bundestag administration. A spokesman told Business Insider: “There are no such figures, at least not as an overview for a longer period of time.” Only the apologies received up to that point in time for that day are listed on a daily basis at the end of a plenary minutes. In any case, Hönel, Roth and Slawik are above average, as their reports in the social networks show.

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In any case, the latest sick leave is not an issue that only affects the young generation of politicians, as Roth (52, SPD), Peter Tauber (48, CDU) and Wagenknecht (53, Left) prove. There may be another aspect for the younger ones, as Tobias Bacherle (Greens) says. Like Hönel and Slawik, the 27-year-old is a member of parliament for the first time. He explains one reason why the newcomers pull the ripcord after a short time: “For me, it’s sometimes my own demands that massively increase the pressure.”

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